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Letters


Readers please note it is essential that all Letters to the Editor carry the full name and address of the writer, even if it has to appear under a pseudonym. This applies to all email letters as well.

 

Collapsed finance companies

A few months ago, a Sunday newspaper publishing the re-opening of the former Pramuka Bank, was a welcome relief for depositors, many of whom have dumped their life savings into this institution on the promise of a better future.
There are now rumblings of discontent, however amongst depositors many may not be able to remove their full deposits and could be sorted out with the management and the government.

The depositors are sure something is happening and expect part of their deposit in the near future.
The case of collapsed Finance Companies during the UNP regime in 1989/90; was due to the failure of the Central Bank Department of Non-banking Financial Institutions to monitor the working of finance companies.

The UNP government took no action to give relief to the depositors who became destitute overnight, nor were any charges made against these bogus directors, who were only confidence tricksters of the collapsed finance companies, but allowed to go scot free and some of these directors are living in comfort in Sri Lanka and abroad. This was one reason the UNP became very unpopular since 1990 and lost all elections.

It was only the former President Chandrika Banadaranaike Kumaratunga who gave at least some relief by directing officials to settle the claims of the depositors by selling the HPT Ltd. head office building to the Insurance Corporation and the depositors were paid 50% of their claim in May/June 1996.

We wrote to the liquidators in March 2006 and we were told to be patient and possibly be paid after 1 or 2 years. Again we wrote this year 2008, and again we were asked to wait a further 1 or 2 years. In their reply, it appears the government is holding the paying compensation, as several lands and portions of lands taken over by the state for development purposes, road widening etc. and these rested with the Reform Commission under the LRC Law No. 1 of 1972 and the liquidators are helpless.

By far the most valuable property is the block of land called Kolonunnekumbura (over two acres) situated along the Nugegoda - Pepiliyana High Level Road, which could fetch well over Rs. 150 million, plus other property. There were about 3000 depositors who invested their life’s savings in 1990, on retirement at the ago of 60 years and now they would be aged 78 years, these depositors are now old and feeble and may not live long.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa should now act fast and instruct his officials to settle the claims by releasing these lands or compensation be paid, to pay the depositors, but may be hampered by government red tape.
There is an old saying that ‘the mills of God grind slowly but surely,’ what happened to the UNP in the last two decades may happen to the present government, at the next general election, since they are now very unpopular, due to the spiraling cost of living.
Over to you, President Mahinda Rajapaksa for action!.

F. A. Rodrigo Sattianandthen
Australia

****

Calculators, Maths, Science and Technology

Dr. (Mrs.] M. T. Raffai has expressed the view that students should be allowed to use calculators and Mohamed Zahran has justified his opposition and also has made a practical and worthy suggestion to introduce Arithmetic as an alternative subject for those who are weak in Maths. Authorities in charge of education should consider and implement the proposal without a delay

The use of calculators has resulted in some student being unable to add three different numbers without the use of a calculator. Krishnamurthi prophetically warned of an impending situation in 1970; “What would happen to the human being when the computer takes over all the functions of the brain?.” he asked. Mental lethargy is inevitable if students are allowed to use calculators at their young age. When the calculator was not in use, students studied the multiplication tables printed on the back page of an exercise book and such a study becomes redundant if students are allowed to get addicted to the frequent use of calculators. Currently even the fish stall mudalali uses a calculator to sell few kilos of fish priced marked for 500 grams. The wayside street vendor uses a calculator, though some of them have passed the GCE O Level examination. The writer purchased 6 ‘thoses’ from a van selling food items, and the young boy seller used a calculator to determine the amount. To my utter surprise the boy had passed the GCE A Level with a credit pass in Maths.

Technology should be used to enhance the quality of service and work efficiency. But to those who were able to finger count [hundred] notes in a packet of cash consisting of hundred notes before calculators were introduced, cannot adduce reasons of efficiency to machine count five notes. Shrofs/ Cashiers in Government Service finger counted even large receipt or payment amounts. Bank staff Mercantile, Public Servants, and clerks in large wholesale establishments were able to add over ten or even twenty items written in a ledger without calculators. The present calculator usage to some extent degrades the proficient use of the brain and thus Mrs. Raffai’s suggestion should not be implemented in respect of students. Parents too should dissuade children from getting addicted to the use of calculators until they have passed the school examinations. Adults using calculators could enhance efficiency and accuracy.

The Commissioner of examinations had contemplated [news item] reducing the qualifying marks in mathematics for the A Level examination, as 57 percent of the students failed but, since mathematics, science and technology command a supreme position in industrial development, the quality of mathematics teaching should be upgraded.

If Sri Lanka could dream to achieve industrial development, of the scale of the newly developed countries, mathematicians and scientists with an exclusive knowledge are necessary.
Thus the quality of teaching of mathematics and science should be enhanced and not lowered. Calculators and mathematics are intended to overcome the problems, but are not proposals to solve the problems, in the student interest.
Kasi Silva

****

Essential food items soaring daily

The cost of living is sky-rocketing with the prices of most essential items of food being daily increased, resulting in people finding it very difficult to exist and keep their heads above water.
In addition to food, the prices of gas, electricity, water and telephone bills too are being increased monthly without any tangible reason, to cover up the waste and corruption and expenditure on tamashas, foreign trips ( on work that could be done by the High Commissioners in those countries), and inefficient administration.

The present period is not second to the time during the late PM Sirimavo Bandaranaike when we were asked to tighten our belts by eating, ‘ala’, ‘batala’ and lick the palm to drink tea.
When Sirimavo was hospitalised, she found that the invalid’s Marmite was not imported, and she immediately gave orders to import this particular invalid food item forthwith. Are we in a better position now?

It was taught to us that the best way to prove a point was to quote anything in figures whereever possible. Therefore I give below the prices few items of food that I took at random from some supermarkets at Nawinna and Maharagama:

All the prices mentioned are per kilo:
Red onions Rs. 112.84, White kekulu 65/-, Kiri Samba 131/-, Mysore Dhall 276/-, White sugar 69/-, Brown Sugar 95/- Green gram125/-, Chick peas 177/-.
Tea Ceylonta Rs. 240/- (400g) Laogi tea 400g Rs. 234/- Coffee Rs. 662/-
Milk-Anlene Full cream Rs. 300/- 400g. Anchor full cream Rs. 300/- 400g. Bonlac Rs.797/- 800g, Nestomalt Rs. 210/- 400g pkt.

Big onions Rs. 112.84/- Garlic Rs. 3.39.
Vegetables: Thalanabatu Rs. 87/- Leeks 101.10/- Pumpkin 50/- Coconut 42/- per nut.
Fish - Sura Paraw Rs. 400/- Hurulla Rs. 79.90/- Talapath Rs. 82/-
Soap Rs. 27/- cake Harischandra Bar soap Rs. 200/- per bar. Khomba soap 45/- per cake.
Oil - Coconut Rs. 190/- Bottle (which we find sometimes with cockroach parts and we are forced to use vegetable oil. Turkey sunflower Rs. 1350/- (2 Lit)

Baby milk- Cow & Gate No. 3 Rs. 720/- per tin which was Rs. 680/- a few month back.
Telephone, water and Electricity bills are increased every few months.
The Government and the Ministers concerned should give their prior attention to this burning problem which affects the poor, middle class and pensioners alike who are under going untold hardships, and let them live without starvation.

V. K. B. Ramanayake
Maharagama

****

Unruly student monks

It was extremely embarrassing to view the behaviour of the unruly student monks who forced the Police to take action with water cannons and tear gas.

There are likely to be many who will find fault with the Police for what ensued during the demonstration and the sight of the student-monks robes in tatters, sore eyes and embittered was not a scene that these student-monks should be proud of. They have not achieved anything but public denunciation for their actions. Before, denouncing the Police, it is best to ask whether the student-monks are given free education to behave in such an unruly manner, they purposely taunted the police and forced action to be taken on them – was it not an insult to the robe and Lord Buddha’s teachings? Surely their grievances could have been better relayed through other courses of action, than to behave like hooligans after a football match!

Many of these student-monks eventually derobe and take up new names (Mr….etc) having benefited from free education provided by the government. In times where it is easy to ‘dress up’ as a monk, it also highlights the security risks and we should not forget that it was a Buddhist monk, or a man dressed as one, who assassinated Sri Lanka’s second prime minister.
Shenali Waduge

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Unwholesome criticism by the media

The electronic and the print media of the government have made the Opposition Leader a scapegoat for the purpose of hurling abuse and destructive criticism in a most unseemly manner, forgetting all journalistic norms.
These two institutions resort to unethical methods of slandering and ridiculing the Leader of the Opposition, forgetting the fact that he is an internationally recognised leader and a sober politician, like one-time Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake.

During the his fairly long political career, he has held many ministerial posts, including that of Prime Minister, and acquitted himself excellently, winning the encomium of the people who belong to the grand old party i.e. the United National Party and even people belonging to other political parties.In the circumstances it is time the authorities concerned stepped in to order the electronic and print media of the government to stop this most uncouth, unseemly and shameful practice of slandering the Opposition Leader, for such unkind practice is bound to incur the displeasure of the public at large, which is already fed up with these two institutions.
R. M. L. Ratnayake (J.P.)
Matale

****

Boosting our village life

When we, as Sinhala Buddhists, boast of our unique 2500 year old culture, we highlight our ancient village culture and that rustic, rural way of life. We even specify that our village was in close proximity of a Wewa, Dagoba and Pansala. No mention is made even of a ‘polathu school,’ a Grama Sevaka, or any administrative body. It has to be presumed that the men are farmers, either paddy or chena. Even the Mahawansa does not describe as to how the ordinary people lived, under the King. Our chronicles mention the lives of our Kings but nothing of his vassals (Gettho), who had to perform Rajakariya by royal decree and live in servitude. Only royalty could use chairs or beds or couches and the vassals could not wear jewellery. The villages in those times were a feudal system, with no citizens, but vassals who were called ‘Gettho.’ Those who performed Rajakariya were not paid but were given land to cultivate and live on the produce. Even their clothing was stipulated, without any finery even for the women. Their houses were mud huts with cadjan or branch roofing, with an open verandah where the only bed was to be seen with no mattress and spread with a mat; one main door which led into the one living room and the kitchen (Muluthenge) was at the rear, a low roofed mud structure with an open fire for cooking. Usually, there was no well as they had to depend on the near by wewa for their water, washing and bathing. During the drought they had to go miles in search of water. Toilets were not heard of, even now in some very remote villages. This I believe is a fair picture of our village before 1505, when with foreign invasions, all ways of rural life changed.

The objectives of the JHU, JVP, and affiliated chauvinist groups are to get at least the rural farmer folk to this way of life and live on the produce of the land and ban all imports. Wheat, flour, sugar, apples, grapes, butter, cheese, milk foods, foreign liquor and cigarettes are the culprits which transform our rural lifestyles and drain our national revenue, by the billions each year, forcing whatever government in power to beg for foreign aid for survival. So, our visionary President identified the most undeveloped villages and pledged to develop them with or without foreign aid or NGO intervention. However, no model plan was stipulated on how these villages are to be developed like what President Premadasa did, and to develop and retain the village values, customs and traditions. Most of Presidnt Premadasa’s Gam Udawas are highly developed towns with so many facilities. Will this ‘Gama Neguma’ too end up the same way by transforming remote villages into small townlets?

However, I would request those sincere nationalists to watch the ‘Yeheliya’ teledrama episodes shown on Rupavahini and see what sordid crimes are committed daily in our remote villages, where mostly helpless women and young girls are subjected to rape and abuse and in most cases, incest and how they end up not in any temple or Buddhist institution but in a convent where they are cared for after their horrendous experiences. How has the ‘Dagoba’ and the ‘Pansala’ effacted their rural rustic lives? Is banning foreign liquor the only priority? What about the kasippu which has become a growing industry? It is sad to say that our monks have failed to protect our villages and have taken to politics and professions to earn a salary and perks and live in luxury, blaming the foreign forces for our plight.
T. L. A. Perera
Horetuduwa, Keselwatta

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                                                                   Appreciations                                                                  

Loss of great spiritual leader - Let us follow her Path

We have lost a great guru and guide of outstanding and unique calibre.
She created a religious renaissance from Tellippillai and her life is a chapter to be written in letters of gold letters in the history of Hindus by Thevathirumagal Sivathamilz Selvi Dr. Thangammah Appacutty, who was a Hindu Spiritual Leader in Jaffna, helping the needy children and elderly people and teaching religious values and morals not only to people in Jaffna but to all Hindus worldwide, passed away at the age of 83 on July 15, 2008 (Sunday) at 12.15 p.m.

The Tamil Devotional Classic Puranam or ‘The Great Epic’ by Sekkirzhaar is the saga of the sixty three Nayanars or Servitors of the Lord, who not only lived for Him but adored Him in delightfully distinct ways. In that lineage, Sri La Sri Arumuga Navalar who has been recognised by all Sri Lankans and the government as one of the national heroes; is regarded as the sixty fourth Nayanar. Sri Lanka and Jaffna, in particular, starved for several years without a successor to that great Nayanar. This vacuum was filled by a great lady, who has been a mother to all of us. That was ‘Thirumagal’ Sivathamilz Selvi Dr. Thangammah Appacutty.

Professor Dr. T. N. Ramachandran, a renowned authority on Saiva Sitthanthan in Tamil Nadu once said in his tribute that he hailed Dr. Thangamma Appacutty as a lady of ‘Periya Puranam.’ It is not only her knowledge but her yeoman dedicated service that acquired for her that praise. Dr. Thangammah was given several titles and honours including the titles of ‘Sivagnana Viththagar’ at the 25th anniversary of All Ceylon Hindu Congress, ‘Theiva Thirumagal’ at the Golden Jubilee of All Ceylon Hindu Congress, Honorary Doctorate by the University of Jaffna and ‘Kalasuri’ by the Government of Sri Lanka, the Global Award for the best service by a Hindu by the Hawaii Shri Subramania Swamigal Ashram, USA.

‘Theiva Thirumagal’ was a title bestowed on her by the All Ceylon Hindu Congress (Federation of Hindu Religious Associations and Trusts) when it held a Hindu Religious Conference in July 2005 to commemorate its Golden Jubilee. ‘Theivam’ means the God, ‘Thiru’ means sacred, ‘magal’ means daughter. Yes, she was really a divine daughter who came to be born in Jaffna in 1925 and remain as a servant to mankind. She dedicated her life to serve others.

The trials and tribulations she cheerfully underwent, particularly in the nineties and the incredible sacrifices she made in her service to mankind in the name of Sakthi takes our breath away. Looking at her life history is to inhale the air of sanctity and blessedness.
Having commenced her career as a teacher in Batticaloa, moving to Colombo and thereafter settling in her own village Tellippillai, this unique Divine Daughter led the reconstruction of the famous Amman Kovil, Tellippllai. Durga Amman Kovil is one of the well known places of worship for Hindus. She did not just remain as a glorified trustee of a temple, but instead, she went round the world and lectured on teachings of our religion and spread the message that service to mankind is a real prayer to the Almighty.

She created a laudable renaissance by spearheading a social service movement from the temple to help the needy children and the elderly people in numerous ways. It was the innovation brought in by Siva Thamilz Selvi to our society. Her goal was to serve the needy people as part of her worship to the Almighty and she succeeded in that and set an example for all of us.

The first lesson we Hindus learn from our religion is that Love is God. Loving the Almighty should be only for the sake of love and not for any reward. Saint Thirumoolar has sung in Thirumanthiram that Love and+ God are the same. Sir Pon. Arunachalam has given (as follows) in English those words of wisdom:-

“The ignorant call Love
and Siva two different objects
No one knows that Love
and Siva are both the same
If one knows that Love is Siva
one will abide in grace
the form of Love and Siva.”

The archaeological studies of Hindu Temples in Tamil Nadu established that community life was built around the Kovils. Even the cities came to be built in that way. Educational, Cultural and Social services originated from the Kovils. The best example thereof is Madurai Meenatchi Amman temple.

Our Thanga Amma (meaning ‘Golden Mother’) gave life to that concept in Tellippillai. Her services were an example and eye opener for our people. Hindus all over the world appreciated her services.
Thus, she created a new history by propagating the morals and ideals of our religion not only through her teachings but by her service.

‘It is said that all good things are material to those who know their duty and walk the path of perfect good.’ - (Translation of Thirukkural 981).

Her life is a good interpretation of this Kural.
She was the indispensable Mother to our children in the time of crisis. She did not run away from the problems she faced in Jaffna due to the unfortunate situation. When Tellippillai was affected by the war, she moved with her home’s children and elders and gave them shelter in various places. Her courage and determination is admirable. One of her children who was brought up by Thamilz Selvi in her young days in one of her homes said Thamilz Slevi looked after her and her children as if they were her own children and she cried. Even I could not resist the tears that came to my eyes. She has really created a vacuum in our society.

Our Thanga Amma rose to be a courageous leader of our community and taught all of us that our religion is not meant only for temple worship but also for service to others who are also the children of our God and we can pray to God through such service too.

The noble path shown by our divine mother should penetrate into our society and its culture and remain and take our society further and further on that path.
Kandiah Neelakandan
General Secretary
All Ceylon Hindu Congress
Federation of Hindu Religious
Associations and Trusts in Sri Lanka

****

Literary genius S. A. Wijeytilaka

The 37th death anniversary of S. A. Wijetilaka fell on June 22. He was the fifth in a family of nine. His father served as the Headmaster of several schools in Matale and was popularly know as S.M.P. (S. M. Perera)

S. A Wijetilaka was known as Ariyaratna (Ari to his friends, colleagues and relatives) Ari started his schooling at the Buddhist Institute (Now Vijaya College). After a few years he joined the well known Christ Church School. Having completed his education at Matale he joined St. John’s College, Panadura. After passing the seventh standard, he joined Ananda College, Colombo.

He had a brilliant career at Ananda. Here he won several prizes and steadily built up a good library. He was particularly good in English, Latin, Greek and History. He joined the University College in 1921, when Professor Mars was the Principal.

He passed his B.A (London) obtaining a First Class. Incidentally, he was the first graduate that Matale produced. Although he could have obtained a lucrative post under the government he chose teaching as a career. The other brothers took to the practice of law.

His first appointment was at Dharmaraja College, Kandy. After a short period, he joined Ananda College, Colombo, at the request of P. D. S. Kularatna. After Kularatna founded Nalanda Vidyalaya he joined Nalanda and got married while at Nalanda.
From Nalanda, he was transferred back to Dharmaraja College, Kandy as Vice Principal. When L. H. Mettananda became the Principal of Ananda, he was appointed as Principal of Dharmaraja, in which capacity he served for nearly eight years. He resided at ‘Lake View’ the official quarters of the Principal. It was a place from where the entire Kandy town could be seen. When the post of Principal Ananda College fell vacant, he was the popular choice. It was with the greatest reluctance that he joined Ananda as he loved the idyllic situation of ‘Lake View.’ After his retirement from Anand,a he functioned as a member of several boards and commissions. He had a fearless and independent outlook on life and his speeches at different functions depicted his fearless personality.

At Dharmaraja College he was my English teacher and later my Principal. He was the greatest influence in my life. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to study at different schools for very short periods; as a result, no other teacher in any other school was able to exert any influence on me.

All his pupils had the highest respect for him and they used to proudly proclaim that they studied at Ananda, Nalanda and Dharmaraja during the ‘Wijetilaka Era.’ He was a literary colossus almost a literary computer.
G. H. I. De Zoysa
Gampola.

****

Rev. Fr. Glen Fernando (CSSR)

Champion of the oppressed and downtrodden

Time dims the memory and with numerous problems confronting us in our daily work. Regrettably, we as a nation generally forget even extraordinary persons once they cross the great divide. However there are some persons who by their exemplary lives, amazing charisma, and significant contribution to society leave an indelible imprint in our hearts and minds. Memories of such persons linger for ever, One such person was Rev. Fr. Glen Fernando, who passed away on July 4, 2007 at the age of 67.
Fr. Glen was a martyr for truth, freedom, human rights and human dignity. A Redemptorist priest who literally adored the Redemptorist community and the Catholic Church, living upto the ideals and holy ethics of his priesthood which he abundantly and manifestly demonstrated by his exemplary life. He has left behind a luminescence that passing time can hardly erase. He was a great and extraordinary man.

Fr. Glen did not confine himself to the main stream of parochial activities. He ministered to all, irrespective of religious and other differences. He was a social apostle of national standing, especially building conviction among the various communities. He was committed to social action and change of society that is just and true. He continuously exhorted Christians to understand people of other faiths. He would often refer to the famous words of Jonathan Swift “We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another”.

He was a multi-faceted personality, deeply religious, well read, a social worker, championing the cause of the oppressed and down trodden. A thinker with an incisive mind, he was also a very articulate preacher. His sermons were often not on aspects of intricate theology. Scripture was brought to life with moral lessons from his experiences of day to day living. He was able to speak simply and clearly, interjecting with humor, which held congregations spellbound.

Rev. Fr. Glen he was a rare personality; he could associate with beggars and kings with absolute equanimity, a rare trait which drew people to him. His heart though was very much with the poor; those both materially and spiritually, and the downtrodden. His religious piety, exemplary and ethical conduct, integrity and high moral values left an indelible impression on all those he came into contact with.

Staying true to his teaching and what seemed to be very clearly his mission.
Fr. Glen pursued with tremendous energy, his passion form uplifting the lives of those forgotten and shunned by society, the Lepers. He spent most all his earthly life, on many an occasion neglecting his health, going around the country, making sure that the patients in the leprosy colonies, had a decent lifestyle and that the basics such as education and healthcare were accesible to them. The Society for the Upliftment and Rehabilitation of Lepers (SUROL) was very close to his heart. Fr Glen guided the Society with great dedication and enthusiasm. At the time of his death the Society was caring for approximately 500 persons with leprosy, with the love and care that was incomparable and undoubtedly a conduit of life for this community.

His heart was always with the poor the destitute, and the young spiritual dropouts. By his exemplary life style and accessibility, he was such a shining example of character that he was able to bring many youth, who had strayed away, back to the fold. His understanding of the problems of modern living helped bring together many young couples who had separated or were on the verge of separation.

Fr Glen, you left a blazing trail, not through the pursuit of fame, fortune, or recognition that most of us are embroiled in, in our earthly pursuits. Yours was one of service, and contribution Father. Many lives have breathed easier because you graced this earth for 67 glorious years. We thank God for that and long for more of you, more so those 500 people whom loved you so much. God knew best though and took you back to be with him in his glorious Kingdom.
Rex Fernando

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